Every month we get together and worship at New Harvest Christian Church. Every month looks different, different bands, worship leaders, different formats. A few months ago, we got the idea to go over the top with Stations of the Cross for Easter! And that's what we did! With the help of New Harvest Christian Church, Hope Community Church, Madison Church of the Nazarene (Adrian, MI) and several other people, we pulled off a wonderful night. Together, we encountered the cross through interactive and meditative ex
Thursday night our care team headed out to four Toledo clubs to deliver Easter gifts and good news about a free medical clinic.
Women in the sex industry do not have access medical insurance because they are considered independent contractors, much like a Mary Kay sales rep. They are not technically employed by the clubs, but instead rent space like a cosmetologist would from a hair salon. So free medical clinics that give out actual medical care are an important resource to them.
Sixty gifts went to sixty wonderful women! We had great conversations with women we've known for years and with several new women that we met for the first time. We even got to have a phone conversation with one of the ladies who was recovering from surgery and just happened to call when we were there. It was great to chat with the managers and did we mention that two of the clubs it was our first time into them and we were warmly welcomed! It is such an honor and a privilege to walk where we have been given opportunity to walk!
God is so good! And he loves exotic dancers, this we are more and more convinced of every day! This was our Easter message to the ladies:
I’m sitting here looking at a list of 137 names--each of them attached to faces, stories…human beings that I will find hard to ever forget. All of them women, who sat in my Biblical Rescue class at the Sparrow’s Nest over the last year. When I took the position at Cherry Street Mission Ministries in 2011, I had spent time volunteering and pouring into their mission, but I knew clearly that taking a paid position would be for a season in my life, one of learning, one of serving and one without a clear length. I also knew that this partnership was bigger than myself or Cherry Street. I told Charles, my immediate boss, right from the beginning that this season could be six months, six years or a lifetime, I didn’t know. It turned out to be 10 months. Ten months of fully encountering God at curb level in Toledo, Ohio at homeless shelter.
I could tell you of all the stories that I had the privilege of entering, all the lives that found some measure of transformation through Christ upon colliding with mine. I could spend days reliving with you the precious moments of salvation, baptism and even just personal gut checks that came every single day; or the precious, heartbreaking moments of death and grieving because not all of those 137 women are living today. But I want to tell you something different, not any more profound or any more legit, just different.
I entered Cherry Street, fully aware of who I was and who God is. I wasn’t broken, like I would have once labeled myself in my junk, but I was wounded. During my pursuit of running passionately after God, I had been wounded deeply by the Church and because of that I had begun to in many ways question the power of Christ in me. Cherry Street, along with another group of awesome people at New Harvest Christian Church, stepped into my life and helped to heal those wounds. They enabled to me to once again believe in myself and helped me to see that how God has called me to live in the midst of his world isn’t wrong. Indeed, people didn’t understand it and that caused frustration on both sides, but the heartbeat inside me is the very heartbeat of God.
When I began discussions about my position at Cherry Street there were many thoughts, including how would I juggle CSMM and my volunteer work at Free2BMe. Several people had approached me at the same time telling me they thought I should apply for various positions that were available at Cherry Street and silly me, said no “I’ll just volunteer.” So I spent a great deal of time volunteering – painting, refurbishing, speaking with guests and even employees, and pouring my thoughts and ideas into the new chaplaincy/spiritual emphasis department. When I was finally presented with the position of Biblical Advocate/Senior Chaplain, everything in me knew it was exactly what I was supposed to be doing for CSMM. Charles could tell you that I didn’t much appreciate the title “Biblical
Advocate”. I told him over and over that people wouldn’t understand it, wouldn’t get it. It was easier to just call us Senior Chaplains. So my name tag said “Senior Chaplain” and that sounded so much better.
I spent lots of time rounding up over 40 volunteer chaplains and coordinating their service hours, really just undergirding them, supporting them, encouraging them and even
teaching them. But most of my time was spent in the classroom with guests of the Sparrow’s Nest, the women’s facility at CSMM. I was a great chaplain (I might be biased – so take that with a grain of salt). And I was comfortable calling myself a chaplain because that title meant something to the world--people understood it, people got it, which brings me to the point of this note, what I learned at Cherry Street…
I want to say that it wasn’t about learning so much as it was about God moving me towards a finishing, a perfecting, a finalizing…and please don’t misunderstand that to mean, I’m perfect, because I’m not, in fact I’m far from it. But little did I know, God was perfecting something inside me and I needed Cherry Street in order to live into it. That wound that I mentioned stole something from me, it attempted to squash the very work of God in my life and it took me a very long time to realize that. What I learned at Cherry Street, what God used Cherry Street to perfect in me is that, as much as people don’t get it, or don’t understand it, or think it’s ungodly, I am a biblical advocate!
A biblical advocate lives out biblical principles that bring about transformation, not only in others, but also in themselves. I was learning to live out these principles way before I ever encountered Dan Rogers or Cherry Street Mission Ministries, but it was that very person and organization that gave me the language to better communicate and even understand what it was that God was calling me to and I am eternally grateful for that. It was the living out of those very same principles that brought condemnation from the Church causing a deep wound in me, and thus my ability to willingly accept what was acceptable in the title of Senior Chaplain and reject that which was reject-able in the title of Biblical Advocate.
At the heart of who I am, I want to love people, to follow the great commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the great commandment (Mark 12:29-31) and I want to do it without violating the crap out of people. I want to love others as myself without forcing my desires and expectations on them, which means that I don’t get to say what God wants for someone else. I can only be the straight line to the crooked around me and trust that God’s got it. That there isn’t a stop watch that I’m racing against or that anyone is racing against for that matter. I want to love others without managing them but instead teach them to manage themselves. I want to love others by allowing them to hit their rock bottom, which cannot be defined by me, only them. And I want to love others without bulldozing them into believing what I think they should believe or profess.
At Cherry Street I served as a bridge between the guests and the management, Charles and Kim could tell you that as an advocate I held them to the fire many times, demanding the living out and breathing in of these principles, even to the point of complete and utter emotion (okay, I think I was hyperventilating!). As an advocate you do not advocate for the organization and its well-being or wants, but instead you stand like Abraham before God, abandoning yourself to possibilities of your own expulsion, and plead for the city. So at Cherry Street I learned, despite what the Church believes about me, and despite even what Cherry Street thought about me (which I hope was good), I learned to stand before the powers that be and plead, not on behalf of the organization or the entity, but on behalf of the human being that deserves the full bounty of Christ that is found in his principles.
Because believe me the principles bring about true transformation if we fully engage them. I know this because my story is one of living them.
What God was perfecting in me, what he was building in me was to be like Christ and to lay myself down, my wants, my beliefs, my expectations and plead for the Holy God to offer grace, to be just, to embrace the principles he established and to pour out his mercy.
That is Christ…Christ the High Priest, the Advocate, who has called me to be like him, no matter how uncomfortable it is, no matter if people think you are a mess, or call you a pain-in-the-ass (which I was called)…to be the straight to the crooked around me, fully acknowledging that I got my own crookedness, but in matters of loving others I must walk the straight line of the biblical principles because I am an Advocate.
We had a wonderful response to the panel discussion that our founder, Sharon was invited to sit on yesterday on the National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. It was an amazing way to get the word out about how to love without expectation and without limitation! Not all sex workers are trafficked, some have made a choice that most people could never understand or ever take the time to understand, all no matter their circumstances deserve to be loved unconditionally!! Jesus' love for sex workers is as great as his love for the "religious"!
Many sex workers, in both the legal adult entertainment industry and illegal sex industry, however, have been victims of trafficking or other heinous crimes and for these victims we must help to provide adequate advocacy, support, encouragement and healing! This panel opened a genuine discussion about how faith and spirituality play a positive role in healing from the trauma of sex crimes.